Fundraising is Sales and Storytelling

Fundraising is Sales and Storytelling

Fundraising is essentially a sales process.

As in any commercial transaction, you want to persuade people to give you money in exchange for … something. The difficulty arises in trying to determine what people want or need.

Every good marketer knows that you don’t sell things – you sell solutions to problems. If you make a hammer, you don’t focus on its features. Instead, you show customers how they can use it to build things (to make the home more comfortable, for example), to fix things (to save money), or even to smash things (well, to each his own).

The trick in fundraising is similar. You have to determine what motivates prospects, and then explain how their donation will satisfy that desire. No one really enjoys giving away money, but they may be willing to part with it if you can show them how it will satisfy one or more of the following desires.


Research suggests that the most effective resource a nonprofit can have is an endearing storyline. For many, a story about a single needy beneficiary trumps statistics about the seriousness of the cause and charts and graphs that show the charity’s effectiveness. Most people connect and sympathize with other people, and individual stories are the way to tug at their heartstrings and their purse strings. Make the cause seem personal, and make your pitch equally personal, friendly and sympathetic.

Traceable Funds

For many donors, however, it’s not all about the feel-good story. In addition to touching their sympathy, you also need to help them understand the scale of the need and the effectiveness of the charity, and that’s where the numbers and graphs come in. They want to know how much good their money will do, and they want to see minimal operational overhead and fundraising expenses.

Associate with Success

Some people are driven by the desire to be part of successful initiatives and successful organizations. It makes them feel accomplished and successful themselves, and want to be recognized as such by others. Make these people a pivotal part of your campaign. Even if you have no work for them to do, seek their input and connect them with the process by giving them details and updates. Name them in a list of donors, give them a presentation during an event, or put their name on a plaque in your offices. Those who come on board as a one-time donor might be transitioned into continual giving if you make their experience fulfilling.

Tax Write-Off

And some are heavily motivated by the tax benefits of charitable giving – possibly more than they care about the cause. Make giving as simple as possible for these donors, for you’re essentially in competition with other charities that are trying to do the same, and the winner will be the one that makes it easiest. Online campaigns must be designed with a minimum of clicks and fields to fill in. Mail campaigns must have postage-paid envelopes and easy-to read forms with suggested donation amounts and multiple ways to pay. If you’re seeking donations of goods for an auction or raffle, offer to pick up the merchandise at the donor’s location when it’s convenient to her. Make receipts readily available for merchandise donations, and allow the donor to fill in the valuation. He’ll probably overvalue it, but that’s between him and his accountant.

Tell the donor what he wants to hear. That doesn’t mean bending the truth – it means focusing on that part of a very big story that resonates best with the individual prospect.

All of these motivations, benefits or storylines can be used to good effect when fundraising on the donasity platform. Learn more.